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CAYETANO V.

MONSOD
September 3, 1991
201 SCRA 210
PARAS, J.
FACTS

• On April 25, 1991, Atty. Christian Monsod was nominated by former President
Corazon C. Aquino to the position of Chairman of the Commission on Elections
(COMELEC).

• On June 5, 1991, the Commission on Appointments (CA) confirmed his nomination.

• On June 18, 1991, he took his oath of office and he assumed office as Chairman of
the COMELEC.

• Renato L. Cayetano challenged the validity of Monsod’s confirmation by the CA on


the ground that he does not possess the required qualification of having been
engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years.
Atty. Monsod’s qualification and work experience:
- a member of the Philippine Bar since 1960 (86.55%)
- a paying member of the IBP since its inception in 1972-73
- has been paying his professional license fees as lawyer for more than 10 years
- worked in the law office of his father after passing the Bar
- World Bank (1963-1970): worked as operations officer for about 2 years in
Costa Rica and Panama which involved getting acquainted with the
laws of member-countries, negotiating loans and coordinating
legal, economic, and project work of the Bank
- Meralco Group (1970): served as chief executive officer of an investment
bank and subsequently of a business conglomerate
- Since 1986: rendered services to various companies as a legal and
economic consultant or chief executive officer
- Secretary-General (1986) and National Chairman (1987) of NAMFREL:
knowledgeable in elections laws; appeared in accreditation hearings
before the COMELEC
- In the field of advocacy, as former Co-Chairman of the Bishops
Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development, worked with
underprivileged sectors in initiating, lobbying for and engaging in
affirmative action for the agrarian reform law and the urban land reform law
- A member of the Davide Commission (1990)
- A member of the Constitutional Commission (1986-1987): Chairman of the
Committee on Accountability of Public Officers
• The 1987 Constitution provides in Section 1(1), Article IX-C:

"There shall be a Commission on Elections composed of a Chairman and six


Commissioners who shall be natural-born citizens of the Philippines and, at the
time of their appointment, at least thirty-five years of age, holders of a college
degree, and must not have been candidates for any elective position in the
immediately preceding elections. However, a majority thereof, including the
Chairman, shall be members of the Philippine Bar who have been engaged in
the practice of law for at least ten years." (Emphasis supplied)
• Practice of Law (Black’s Law Dictionary, 3rd ed.)

“The rendition of services requiring the knowledge and the application of legal
principles and techniques to serve the interest of another with his consent. It is not
limited to appearing in court, or advising and assisting in the conduct of litigation,
but embraces the preparation of pleadings, and other papers incident to actions
and special proceedings, conveyancing, the preparation of legal instruments of
all kinds, and the giving of all legal advice to clients. It embraces all advice to
clients and all actions taken for them in matters connected with the law. An
attorney engages in the practice of law by maintaining an office where he is held
out to be an attorney, using a letterhead describing himself as an attorney,
counseling client in legal matters, negotiating with opposing counsel about
pending litigation, and fixing and collecting fees for services rendered by his
associate.”
• The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases in court. (Land Title
Abstract and Trust Co. v. Dworken, 129 Ohio St. 23, 193 N.E. 650) A person is also
considered to be in the practice of law when he:

". . . for valuable consideration engages in the business of advising person,


firms, associations or corporations as to their rights under the law, or appears in a
representative capacity as an advocate in proceedings pending or prospective,
before any court, commissioner, referee, board, body, committee, or commission
constituted by law or authorized to settle controversies and there, in such
representative capacity performs any act or acts for the purpose of obtaining or
defending the rights of their clients under the law. Otherwise stated, one who, in a
representative capacity, engages in the business of advising clients as to their rights
under the law, or while so engaged performs any act or acts either in court or outside
of court for that purpose, is engaged in the practice of law." (State ex. rel. Mckittrick v.
C.S. Dudley and Co., 102 S.W. 2d 895, 340 Mo. 852).
• In the case of Philippine Lawyers Association v. Agrava (105 Phil. 173, 176-177):

"The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases or litigation in court; it
embraces the preparation of pleadings and other papers incident to actions and
special proceedings, the management of such actions and proceedings on behalf of
clients before judges and courts, and in addition, conveying. In general, all advice to
clients, and all action taken for them in matters connected with the law incorporation
services, assessment and condemnation services contemplating an appearance
before a judicial body, the foreclosure of a mortgage, enforcement of a creditor's
claim in bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings, and conducting proceedings in
attachment, and in matters of estate and guardianship have been held to constitute
law practice, as do the preparation and drafting of legal instruments, where the work
done involves the determination by the trained legal mind of the legal effect of facts
and conditions." (5 Am. Jr. p. 262, 263). (Emphasis supplied)
"Practice of law under modern conditions consists in no small part of work performed
outside of any court and having no immediate relation to proceedings in court. It
embraces conveyancing, the giving of legal advice on a large variety of subjects, and the
preparation and execution of legal instruments covering an extensive field of business and
trust relations and other affairs. Although these transactions may have no direct
connection with court proceedings, they are always subject to become involved in
litigation. They require in many aspects a high degree of legal skill, a wide experience with
men and affairs, and great capacity for adaptation to difficult and complex situations.
These customary functions of an attorney or counselor at law bear an intimate relation to
the administration of justice by the courts. No valid distinction, so far as concerns the
question set forth in the order, can be drawn between that part of the work of the lawyer
which involves appearance in court and that part which involves advice and drafting of
instruments in his office. It is of importance to the welfare of the public that these manifold
customary functions be performed by persons possessed of adequate learning and skill, of
sound moral character, and acting at all times under the heavy trust obligations to clients
which rests upon all attorneys." (Moran, Comments on the Rules of Court, Vol. 3 [1953 ed.],
p. 665-666, citing In re Opinion of the Justices [Mass.], 194 N.E. 313, quoted in Rhode Is. Bar
Assoc. v. Automobile Service Assoc. [R.I.] 179 A. 139, 144). (Emphasis ours).
• UP Law Center orientation for new lawyers (1974-1975) listed the dimensions
of the practice of law in broader terms as advocacy, counseling and public
service.

“One may be a practicing attorney in following any line of employment


in the profession. If what he does exacts knowledge of the law and is of a kind
usual for attorneys engaging in the active practice of their profession, and he
follows some one or more lines of employment such as this he is a practicing
attorney at law within the meaning of the statute.. (Barr D. Cardell, 155 NW
312)
• 1986 Constitutional Commission adopted a liberal interpretation of the term
“practice of law” - that lawyers working in the Commission on Audit (COA)
are involved in legal work and would therefore have the necessary
qualifications under the provisions on the Commission on Audit. (Article IX-D
of the 1987 Constitution)
• Practice of law means any activity , in or out of court, which requires the
application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience.
“To engage in the practice of law is to perform those acts which are
characteristics of the profession. Generally, to practice law is to give notice
or render any kind of service, which device or service requires the use in any
degree of legal knowledge or skill.” (111 ALR 23)
ISSUES
• Whether or not the appointment and confirmation of Atty. Monsod as
Chairman of the COMELEC be declared null and void because he does not
meet the Constitutional requirement of having been engaged in the
practice of law for at least ten years?
RULING:

• The Court ruled that in the light of the various definitions of the term "practice
of law", particularly the modern concept of law practice, and taking into
consideration the liberal construction intended by the framers of the
Constitution, Atty. Monsod’s past work experiences as a lawyer-economist, a
lawyer-manager, a lawyer-entrepreneur of industry, a lawyer-negotiator of
contracts, and a lawyer-legislator of both the rich and the poor — verily
more than satisfy the constitutional requirement — that he has been
engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years.
• In the leading case of Luego v. Civil Service Commission, 143 SCRA 327, the
Court said:

"Appointment is an essentially discretionary power and must be


performed by the officer in which it is vested according to his best lights, the
only condition being that the appointee should possess the qualifications
required by law. If he does, then the appointment cannot be faulted on the
ground that there are others better qualified who should have been preferred.
This is a political question involving considerations of wisdom which only the
appointing authority can decide.“ (emphasis supplied)
• The appointing process in a regular appointment as in the case at bar,
consists of four (4) stages: (1) nomination; (2) confirmation by the
Commission on Appointments; (3) issuance of a commission (in the
Philippines, upon submission by the Commission on Appointments of its
certificate of confirmation, the President issues the permanent appointment;
and (4) acceptance e.g., oath-taking, posting of bond, etc. . . . (Lacson v.
Romero, No. L-3081, October 14, 1949; Gonzales, Law on Public Officers, p.
200)
• The power of the Commission on Appointments to give its consent to the
nomination of Monsod as Chairman of the Commission on Elections is
mandated by Section 1(2) Sub-Article C, Article IX of the Constitution which
provides:

"The Chairman and the Commissioners shall be appointed by the President with
the consent of the Commission on Appointments for a term of seven years without
re appointment. Of those first appointed, three Members shall hold office for seven
years, two Members for five years, and the last Members for three years, without
re-appointment. Appointment to any vacancy shall be only for the unexpired term
of the predecessor. In no case shall any Member be appointed or designated in a
temporary or acting capacity."
• The Commission on the basis of evidence submitted during the public
hearings on Monsod's confirmation, implicitly determined that he possessed
the necessary qualifications as required by law. The judgment rendered by
the Commission in the exercise of such an acknowledged power is beyond
judicial interference except only upon a clear showing of a grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. (Art. VIII, Sec. 1
Constitution). Thus, only where such grave abuse of discretion is clearly
shown shall the Court interfere with the Commission's judgment. In the instant
case, there is no occasion for the exercise of the Court's corrective power,
since no abuse, much less a grave abuse of discretion, that would amount
to lack or excess of jurisdiction and would warrant the issuance of the writs
prayed, for has been clearly shown.
Thank you!